Doing this today as i'm gonna be busy tomorrow, the preview of maybe the best weekend in all of football. As before, all games Sky Sports.
BALTIMORE RAVENS @ DENVER BRONCOS
And so, what is probably, probably, the end of an incredible career. Exactly no-one believes Baltimore can do this, and I don't blame them, I'm not really that convinced either. After (fairly) convincingly despatching Peyton Manning and Baltimore's ex team bursting the bubble of lots of people who thought the Colts were better than they actually were because they had a rookie quarterback and a sob story. Well sorry everyone, the team that no one likes and no believed in beat the team everyone wanted so that Peyton could embarrass his old club and apprentice.
This is an uphill battle to say the least. What is encouraging is that Flacco is playing well and has won in hostile environments away from home in the Playoffs. Also that Peyton manning is 0-3 in play-off games in cold outdoor places apparently, so yeah, there's that. Anyway, if Denver continue to play like they did when they won 11 in a row not just to close the season but through it then it's kinda difficult to see if ANYONE will ever beat them again. Much like last year (for different reasons albeit) it is actually Denver's incredible defence that wins games, not the heroics of Tim Tebow or Peyton (though they certainly don't hurt). But if Ray Rice can get back to the top of his game, then we have a chance. We need to run down the clock, keep the ball, and most importantly keep Manning off it. But I don't have high hopes, I just hope we don't embarrass ourselves. (DEN by 4-5)
GREEN BAY PACKERS @ SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
At least I've got this to look forward to after. What will probably be a very depressing beginning to Saturday evening, should be an absolute stunner later on. The Vintage rivarly between the Packers and Niners enters a new chapter to get many nostalgics wet at the thought. It's also probably the most difficult to predict. San Francisco won this one way back in week 1, also at Candlestick, and they do have the slight edge due to their oppressive defence, when they play at their best. But since then the Pack got into a groove and have beaten every other of the top ranked teams with their all guns blazing offence. It's probably safe to say the Pack weren't really challenged last week when Joe Webb set the world alight for a drive and then fell over a lot. This works in the Niners favour, but really there's no telling what's going to happen, after all, the last time they met, the Niners had a different QB. Kaepernick certainly will have benefited from the week off, they'll have had plenty of time to click together, because they're going to make sure they get their points to beat this lot. The Niners on paper should just have enough, but I certainly wouldn't bet on it, which makes it a fascinating one. (SF by 3)
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS @ ATLANTA FALCONS
And so the fun rolls on. The way RG3 and the Redskins sort of faded out of the play-offs was a shame, but Seattle were fantastic all the same, making a statement of intent. This is a much bigger test, but given their form, it is not outside their remit. We all know the troubles with Atlanta. They can't be trusted because despite successful seasons they still haven't won a play-off game under Matt Ryan (something Joe Flacco has done every year he hasn't, just saying) and thus they're under a lot of scrutiny. Atlanta are a very good team, but they also didn't beat any good teams on their way here. Not only that, but they lost some silly games to much lesser teams that the Seahawks, and as proven by the Panthers and Bucs, it is very possible to get a lot of rushing yards against the Falcs. Good news for an explosive Marshawn Lynch because if Beast Mode makes an appearance, then this could be some upset. Atlanta have got lots of talent, but there's something very unsatisfying about them. It will help a lot that they are at home, but Seattle have been playing big and shutting down where-ever they go, and I just like it to happen again. (SEA by 4-5)
HOUSTON TEXANS @ NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
Much like the other AFC game (god the AFC can be dull can't it?) exactly no one thinks the travelling team is going to win this one. In both cases, when these two (and Denver/Baltimore) met towards the end of the season, it came as a turning point for each teams fortunes. New England and Denver's wins saw them replace Houston and Baltimore at the top respectively, and now they show no signs of stopping. I do wish that Baltimore was travelling to Foxborough instead, and I'm sure Houston wish they were off to Mile High too; the match-ups just suit better. But here we are and with recent, dominant performances still looming in the mind, Houston must channel their earlier selves, the guys who stuffed Denver, Baltimore and Chicago. But even though this probably won't be quite the drilling Houston received but a few weeks ago, New England simply have too much going on. No one particularly likes Tom Brady or Peyton Manning, but they DO like watching them scrap it out, out of respect, because they have been the biggest quarterback rivalry of the decade, and one of them in history. I sadly feel this will be a very predictable weekend for the AFC but will lead to a technically impressive if highly depressing Championship game next week. Never give up hope. (NE by 7)
The NFC is such a better conference right?